The battle between biotech giants like Monsanto and organic farmers, as well as consumers concerned about food safety, has been raging in America for several years.
GMO labeling laws are currently being considered in a multitude of states, while at the same time lawsuits proposed by both growers and GMO producing companies are clogging up court dockets. Biotech companies have successfully sued farmers for patent infringement on their genetically modified seeds, even in cases where the farmer did not plant a single GMO seed. Farmers have also begun to turn the tables and are suing neighboring growers and the biotech industry for GMO cross contamination which destroyed organic crops.
Off The Grid News recently sat down with agricultural expert and beekeeper Rick Austin to discuss the fate of the American farmer and the impact the genetic modification of the food supply is impacting both growers and consumers in general. Austin has written two bestselling books focused on sustainable and healthy growing habits, Secret Garden of Survival and Secret Greenhouse of Survival. Austin has also toured the country speaking about the threat genetically engineered crops pose to the bee population and how the loss of the honeybee would prove disastrous for both humans and animals.
OTG: What types of threats to organic crops do GMO crops pose?
Rick: For one thing, there is the problem of cross-pollination from GMO crops, both via the wind, as in corn pollination and via pollinators like honeybees. Since a farm growing GMO crops could be situated right next to a farm trying to grow organic crops, what the organic farmer could end up with next year would be seeds that were no longer organic and are instead contaminated with GMO DNA. And his new seeds from that pollination could quite possibly be sterile, since many GMO crops are designed to be sterile — so that the farmer cannot save seeds and replant next year. Thus the farmer using GMO crops becomes a slave to buying GMO seeds each year; while the “innocent bystander” organic farmer has now has lost years of genetically clean and organic work through the contamination of his crops by GMOs.
Furthermore, Monsanto is actively suing innocent victims of its GMO pollen, when farmers – through no fault of their own, have hybrid crops containing GMO DNA. Since Monsanto has a “patent” on its genetically engineered crops, small neighboring farmers are being sued by the chemical giant, for patent infringement, which those small, innocent, and less-than-wealthy farmers do not have the resources to defend.
Thus, Monsanto is putting small, “non-compliant” as in not buying Monsanto’s GMO seeds, farmers out of business. The result is that the only farms left standing will have to buy Monsanto’s GMO products. Truly, this is restraint of trade and extortion, disguised as “patent violations.”
OTG: What are the challenges of being an organic farmer in such a chemical-saturated world?
Rick: Aside from being polluted and contaminated by GMO pollen, an organic farmer is also subject to the overuse of pesticide and herbicides that are used on neighboring GMO crops. Since GMO crops are now using more and more fertilizer, pesticide and herbicides each year, just to maintain their unsustainable crops, these chemical contaminants often spill over into organic farms through airborne contamination, or through water and soil erosion onto the organic property.
OTG: What is the solution to the GMO crop debate?
Rick: The real solution is by requiring GMO labeling of any product that contains GMOs. This would be costly for the food manufacturers and packing companies. And if consumers were able to vote with their wallets, and as consumers become educated to the dangers of GMOs, they could choose not to buy GMO products, and could instead buy organic.
The real challenge is in the incestuous relationship that Monsanto has with our government, where top Monsanto execs spend a “stint” in government agencies like the FDA, the USDA and the EPA who invariably block consumer watchdog efforts to stop GMOs, and who then go back to even better paid jobs at Monsanto – a reward for hurting the US consumer. Obama’s current Food Czar, who runs the FDA, is the former VP of public policy at Monsanto. Talk about the fox in the hen house!
Interestingly, many countries outside the US are not in Monsanto’s pockets, and they have instituted GMO labeling and have in many cases outright banned the use of GMOs in their countries.
It is not that the US government doesn’t care about its consumers – it is that the US government is too corrupted by Monsanto dollars, and lobbyists.
OTG: Does a crop have to be 100 percent organic to be truly organic, because of cross-contamination by GMO crops and the chemical herbicides used on them?
Rick: To be honest I have come to hate the word “organic” because it has become more of a marketing term and a ploy than a truth. The term organic has been bastardized and misused so often that it has become a deception to consumers. Truly organic crops and foods are supposed to be very restrictive, but it is difficult to police that, especially with government agencies that would rather look the other way, than do what is best for the people that actually pay their salaries – the taxpayers.
I have coined a term “Nature-Culture” that represents what I am doing in gardening, that is not only organic but it is simply the way nature has been growing fruits, nuts, berries and herbs for millions of years. My gardening concept uses symbiotic relationships found in nature so that I can produce bug free food, without the use of pesticide, fertilizer, or herbicides.
OTG: What are your thoughts on the GMO food labeling debate?
Rick: We must expose Monsanto for what they are, and bring awareness to people so that they can vote to change the way our food industry is going. This is difficult in a world with momentary consumer attentions spans, sensationalist reality programs, and a mainstream media that are complicit in the crimes being committed by our government and chemical companies against the voters of this country and humanity in general.
And we must start growing our own foods at home, so that we have a healthy choice and are not slaves to the corporate farming and industrialized grocery distribution system. Only when we can vote by eating our own home grown food will the megalithic ag companies no longer have control over our destiny and our health.
OTG: What are the most common misconceptions about the need for commercial crop fertilizers?
Rick: We have over farmed lands using this megalithic corporate farming mentality, planting mono crops over huge parcels, that have created top soil and nutrient depletion in our ground, and therefore in our crops and in the food on our tables. The food in the grocery stores today we have one-third the nutrients of the same food found in grocery stores in the 1960s. That means that we have to eat three times the amount of food that they did in the 60s just to get the same nutrients. Does anyone see the connection of why our society is so obese? We are starving for nutrients and no matter how much we consume of commercially produced products, our bodies cannot get what we need. We therefore substitute even worse consumer food products that contain immense amounts of sugar using the number one food additive in food products – high fructose corn syrup – and are killing ourselves in the process.
Oh yeah — did I mention that 98 percent of all corn grown in this country comes from GMO crops? Can you say poisoned high fructose corn syrup? There ought to be a skull and crossbones on every product with high fructose corn syrup in it – but of course, that would mean that most of the food on the grocery store shelves would have to carry that label.
OTG: Why are weeds good for the garden?
Rick: People who have read my books, heard me speak, or seen articles written about my Secret Garden of Survival, know that I say that “Weeds Are Good.”
That is because in nature- weeds are pioneer plants. They are the first plants to occupy barren soil. Weeds will grow where nothing else will. They break up poor soil with their roots and they make bad soil better through allowing air, water and microorganisms into soil that would not support other life. In nature, weeds are the first plants in a whole line of succession. Weeds die back and provide nutrients for other plants to grow. Without weeds first creating inhabitable soil, we would not have had any other plants to follow, including the most mature of ecosystems like old oak forests.
When chemical companies kill weeds for the expediency of creating commercial crops on a rapid timetable, they ultimately kill the very plants that could help them replenish the topsoil and the nutrients that are missing from our foods today.
If we continue on this path, we will soon be eating flavored cardboard from our grocery store shelves…. Don’t forget to add the high fructose corn syrup.